In the classic Venezuelan poem ‘Florentino and the Devil’
the word coplero appears in the first line and I wonder if the word
means what it looks like: couple, couplet, cup—as though Florentino and the
Devil are lovers: Florentino a twink, the Devil his papi chulo
and the concatenation of the poem a kind of intercourse, the
joropo a dance of feet. In my translation, they meet on Grindr, naturally,
each a caminante sin camino, walker without path, singing all
night to harp and maracas, the careful give and take of terms, conditions.
Yet, somehow it is not the men who are the real subjects of Torrealba’s
poem. Other words jump at me: cielo, rio, terraplén, sabana—words
thrown from a lonesome geography, a llanos of pain in which mora trees
drop their seeds like tears, and rivers carry them to Trinidad, my island,
where forests fill with saplings and the full valleys declare, in new Latin,
the mating complete, the border drowned, the challenge finally satisfied.
Andre Bagoo reads Translating ‘Florentino y el Diablo’